While the idea of setting resolutions or intentions once a year doesn’t really resonate with me, sankalpa does.
Sankalpa is a sanskrit word meaning resolve or resolution. It is repeated mentally during Yoga Nidra and other yoga practices to build mental fortitude to help positively transform an aspect of our lives. Over time, it can also become a statement of our true life’s purpose.
If you have ever practised Yoga Nidra (a type of guided meditation), you will have experienced the gentle softening of the body and mind that occurs through the stages of relaxation and letting go. It is by design that the sankalpa is introduced and repeated while you are in such a receptive state. The mind is very obedient in this subconscious state. It is as if the mind’s garden has been prepared, mulched, and fed, and into which the seed of intention is planted and watered. This allows the sankalpa to take root and reshape the mind towards a more positive way of being.
This all sounds well and good, but what on earth does this look like?
It can take a while to create your own sankalpa, and I seem to be gradually reforming mine as I come closer to what it is that I really want in life, or my deeper life purpose.
You can use a technique called SWAN, created by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati (Satyadharma, 2013). SWAN stands for Strength, Weakness, Aims and Needs. You basically do a brainstorm on your life, and each of these can be also broken down into physical, mental, emotional and spiritual categories.
You need to be as honest as possible.
Have a good hard look at yourself, and then accept your true nature. If we can’t first accept who we are, then transformation is elusive.
It is only through holding a mirror up to ourselves and acknowledging our weaknesses, then we can begin to transform these into strengths and to really own what we need as opposed to what we merely want.
When I did the SWAN technique, what struck me was how little fun I have in life. I mean, I have a very meaningful life and I love what I do, but what was missing was fun. So fun is part of my sankalpa.
Once you have one area of concern that you’d like to transform, you now need to phrase it into a sankalpa.
Tips for phrasing the sankalpa:
Phrase your sankalpa in the present, present continuous or future tense eg. I am healthy, I am becoming healthier every day or I will achieve complete health
Keep it in the positive, as opposed to “I am NOT something..” so the mind will easily follow
keep the wording simple and precise so that it imprints upon the subconscious
be patient and allow it to evolve over time as your self-awareness deepens through your yoga or meditation practise.
start with mini-sankalpa for day-to day use, eg. “today I’m going to be kind to myself” and over time a sankalpa related to our true life purpose will arise.
In truth, your sankalpa is most powerful when repeated during Yoga Nidra, as this practise was created specifically to help transform individuals through conscious relaxation. Having said that, you can also repeat your sankalpa each time you sit down to either meditate, or do a regular yoga session, as you are also in a relaxed and receptive state.
“The practise of the sankalpa in yoga allows us to spend a little time contemplating and trying to tune into what we really want in life, what will give us deep satisfaction and fulfillment... In order to achieve satisfaction and contentment, which are at the basis of health, we need to be aware of our core purpose, our dharma, our true nature, and what we want to achieve in life.” (Saraswati, Shankardevananda, 1998)
Bushan, S., (2001). Yoga Nidra: It’s applications and Advantages. bihar Yoga Magazine, retrieved on 25/1/21 from: http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1990s/1999/esept99/sankther.html
Satyadharma, S. (2013) SWAN Meditation. Theory and Practice. Munger, India: Bihar School of Yoga.